Best Haunted House Movies

31 Days of Horror – ‘The Canal’

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The Canal  

Directed by: Ivan Kavanagh

Starring: Rupert Evans and Antonia Campbell-Hughes

Review by CinemAbysmal

This is a genuinely mean and frightening film. You look at the picture above, and you’ll probably think it’s a typical ghost flick where the submerged body comes floating to the surface to haunt the living. Truth is though, this movie is a straight ripper. Rather than relying on jump scares and things that go bump in the night, The Canal presents a story floating face down in a murky puddle of grief and infidelity.

I am not saying that there are no horrific parts in this. There are some absolutely chilling scenes brought on by ghosts haunting a house. There is a disgusting public bathroom that is repeatedly revisited causing a great amount of discomfort as a Shiningesque score wobbles and whines in the background. There is a tale of a family that was killed by their patriarch in 1902 in the house in which the main character now lives. The director, Kavanagh knows what he is doing to make the viewer as uneasy as possible.

Back to what makes The Canal brutally scary though, is the weaving story of the main character and his wife. The movie begins with them looking at a house, deeply in love and childless, their whole lives together ahead of them. Several years later the film jumps ahead and we are led to believe that the main character’s wife is cheating on him, leaving him with their son. His reaction is genuine and awful and heartbreaking, and I feel this is where the horrible fright of this film lies: everyone’s worst fears coming to life causing an unrelenting descent into madness in the face of infidelity.

For those into haunted house movies, this movie should be quite enough for you. But if you’re looking for a really depressing film that will most likely just absolutely devastate you while some ghosts tease the living, this one is definitely for you. Check out this bad boy on Netflix now. I promise it will affect you in some way.

 

Cathy’s Take on ‘A Walk to Remember’

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A Walk to Remember (2002) – Fun Family Romp That Is Fun For The Whole Family | Cancer Romance

Directed by: Adam Shankman

Starring: Mandy Moore and Shane West

How I Watched: VHS Like, 30 Times

Sweet November. Love Story. The Fate in Our Stars. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. These are all movies that take the tragedy that is cancer and turn them into a super romantic movie. All of these movies are five star affairs with great casts, but all of them pale in comparison with my all-time favorite film of all time; A Walk to Remember. I own this movie on VHS and I own this movie on a DVD-Blu-Ray combo pack that I bought at Best Buy on Black Friday 2011, though I do not own a Blu-Ray player. And now, starting June 1st, you and me and Earl and the Dying Girl can all watch A Walk to Remember on Netflix as it is the latest addition to the wonderful library of streaming films.

A Walk to Remember, like I said, is my favorite movie and I find it such a blessing to be able to share this recommendation with you loyal followers. It is about a young stallion of a guy played by Shane West as Landon Carter, also known as a modern day Johnny Castle from Dirty Dancing. Though there is no dirty dancing in this. He meets a wonderful religious girl named Jamie Sullivan played by pop-star turned actress, Mandy Moore. He gets forced to work on her school play and finds his new love of acting and relationship with Jamie to be a stabilizing force as well as reinvigorates his zest for life.

As their love grows, Jamie pulls away emotionally. She has a secret. She has cancer. Which is pretty amazing considering most people I know with cancer don’t keep it a secret. They talk about it all the time. My aunt had breast cancer for a while but she passed away. Every time she’d come over, she’d just complain about my cooking, saying that the chemotherapy won’t allow her to eat chicken fried steak, so I’d have to pull out Lean Cuisine Stroganoff that I usually saved for work for her. I understand she was sick, but I wouldn’t want to be alive if I couldn’t eat chicken fried steak. But she passed away. Just like Mandy Moore does at the end of this movie.

I highly recommend this movie for anyone who loves movies about true romance. I don’t know why cancer makes romantic movies more romantic. Maybe it is the fact that when you die, you don’t give people the opportunity to get bored or disappointed by you. They can choose to remember you as they want to cause you are no longer living. Sounds pretty romantic to me. This is a pretty fun family romp that is fun for the whole family. I have seen it like thirty times, so you should see it also.
Cathy Gives It: I give this movie 10/10 of those bags they keep chemotherapy in.

Cathy’s Take on ‘Ghost’

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Ghost (1990) – Spooky Cute Lovey Dovey | Family Fun

Directed by: Jerry Zuckermanbergen

Starring: Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore

How I Watched: South Gate Retroplex in 1990

I know it isn’t Halloween but I got a spooky movie for you all. And sadly, a movie that is leaving Netflix in June, so be sure to grab at it. Believe it or not, I don’t believe in ghosts. I believe in Bigfoots and Draculas, but those make sense. Never been one to believe in ghosts, but I used to.

For a while my other nephew, Stephen, who is Donna’s 23 year old son (enough said), was living with me and while he was living with me, some strange occurrences would occur. Initially it was small stuff, like the refrigerator door left open or all the dog food would be spilled on the floor, and when I asked Stephen about it, he never knew what was going on. So I figured I had ghosts that were upset by Stephie’s presence. So much so, that I would find money missing from my wallet and once even awoke to find the condo filled with a dark and smelly mist, that originated from under Stephen’s door. I was darned scared out of my wits and tried to warn Stephen. I even went so far as to consider calling a priest or exorcist to clean out the spirits, but Stephen got a job in Denver and moved out and all the occurrences disappeared.  I realized later that it was my sneaky neighbor Dave causing all the problems. He didn’t admit to it, but he never would.

So my run-in with a ghost was less sexy than Demi Moore in the classic movie, Ghost, in which her husband dies and then still tries to keep her from dating other guys. But it is Patrick Swayze, so I can’t blame her for loving a ghost. Also there is a hilarious Whoopie Goldberg that plays a medium (My uncle said I should use the joke, “she’s awfully large to be a medium,” but I feel it is too offensive to be included, but that’s Mark for ya) who helps reuniting ghost Swayze and human being Demi Moore. It is a love tale for the ages and when I first watched it in theatres back in 1990, I am going to be honest, I joined a pottery class, but soon came to my senses. Ghosts don’t like pottery. They like Demi Moore. So I threw out my ceramics and got a pixie haircut and never looked back. But I never got another pixie haircut after that.

While it is a bit spooky, Ghost is a fun family romp that would do well either home alone on a Saturday night or in the background of a ritzy dinner party. It has a lot of really cool parts in it, including Patrick Swayze singing “Henry the Eighth, I Am.” Whoopie is hilarious and Demi Moore is beautiful. When the credits roll, you will be weeping from both happiness and sadness to know that a love like that could ever exist and that it is so fleeting. It is by far the greatest love story of all time, rivaling Kim and Kanye West and even Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. Definitely check out this romantic hit before it is gone off of Netflix.
Cathy Give It: I give this movie 10/10 pottery wheels.

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Similar Films: Ghost Dad, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, R.I.P.D.

We Are Still Here

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We Are Still Here (2015) – Horror | Drama

Directed by: Ted Geoghegan

Starring: Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig

How I Watched: Blu-Ray

Best Line: “You’re not leaving here. You stay, you satisfy the darkness.”

A good haunted house movie is defined by the house itself. It has to use the house in a way that it stands as its own character, impacting the story in a way that you, as the viewer, do not want to be in that house. It has become a difficult feat in modern horror cinema, something that was taken to heart back in the 1970’s. The Shining and The Exorcist both used their surroundings to scare the living hell out of their audiences and first-time director Ted Geoghegan knows this well.

We Are Still Here‘s house is a prime example of how to use the setting as an effective character. The movie begins with the characters driving up to the house and then shots of the lonely rooms inside of its antiquated shell. Each great shot is dripping with dread and it really does not let up from these first few moments for the rest of the film. Setting this in the 1970’s was extremely effective as well. The absence of cell phones in We Are Still Here plays a big part in this story and I think Geoghegan knew this when he wrote it.

The cast is not especially incredible but it does not really need to be. Barbara Crampton plays the grieving and ever-optimistic mother role pretty well, carrying a few scenes that really needed a convincing performance. Andrew Sensinig does a convincing enough job as her husband and Lisa Marie plays a pretty damn good hippie with self-professed mental gifts. Monte Markham has a particularly good turn as the film’s menacing antihero, growling his way through some pretty dark scenes.

We Are Still Here‘s standout performance though, comes from Larry Fessenden. Evoking a stoner Jack Nicholson from The Shining, Fessenden grabs the screen from his first appearance as Jacob Lewis, husband of Lisa Marie’s bohemian telepath. He seems immediately lovable, providing the film with its first hints of levity from the opening credits. His ultimate scene though, is one of the most intense in the movie, reminiscent of The Exorcist at its most extreme. This scene will cause you to grit your teeth and sink into the safety of your couch and was really the standout of the film, for me at least.

Though We Are Still Here is set in the 70’s, the movie feels like it was filmed in that decade as well. It seems purposely low budget, not dirty, but not very polished. Scenes are awash in a sea of grey and earthy tones, making the red in the especially gory scenes stand out that much more. CGI is used sparingly, Geoghegan springing instead for physically acted frights. There are not many jump scares to speak of and darkness is used cleverly by the film’s cinematographer. The score is not overbearing and its electronic elements remind me a lot of Fulci’s films, as well as Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

I think why I enjoyed this movie so much was due to how they used the house. One of the most repeated quotes by multiple characters in We Are Still Here is, “This house needs a family,” suggesting ultimately, that the house itself is an active character. This idea has frightened me since I saw The Shining for the first time, imagining that an inanimate object can bend the will of humans. It gives me shudders and this film carries this idea out masterfully.

We Are Still Here definitely isn’t perfect. It precariously rides the fine line between B-Horror throwback and haunted house hall of fame. Some may understandably find the low budget schlock angle off-putting and even a bit silly. What the film lacks in polish though, it returns in a deliciously vicious mountain of dread. It takes quite a bit of love and dedication to make a haunted house movie this well, and to learn that this is director Ted Geoghegan’s debut is very impressive. I really can’t wait to see what he has for us next.

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: The Innkeepers, The Evil Dead, The Shining

Crimson Peak

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Crimson Peak (2015) – Horror | Drama

Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro

Starring: Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston

How I Watched: Amazon Instant Video

Best Line: “A house as old as this one becomes, in time, a living thing. It starts holding onto things. Keeping them alive when they shouldn’t be.”

Let me begin by warning you that this movie is not scary in the way that you’d expect an R-rated haunted house flick directed by Guillermo Del Toro to be. Crimson Peak is at times, uncomfortably frightening but it just manages to avoid terrifying you into oblivion. Its story instead grows increasingly insidious as it progresses and is almost surgical in its mental burrowing of the viewer. What it will not do however, is cripple you into fear like some scenes in The Conjuring or The ExorcistCrimson Peak is a classically well-told ghost story built upon the back of a Victorian era love affair.

Those of you that are now planning to avoid this one due to the words, “Victorian era love affair,” hey, I don’t blame you. From the trailers, I could tell that this one was possibly more Jane Eyre than Del Toro’s exceedingly brutal Pan’s Labyrinth or The Devil’s Backbone. When all is said and done though, trust me, it works. Fear not, thy testosterone. There’s enough tense moments in Crimson Peak to get at least a couple nods out of even the most jaded Horror film aficionado.

If you’re familiar with Del Toro’s track record, you know he’s made some pretty solid films. Including the two mentioned above, he’s credited with the insane Cronos, the Hellboy series and Pacific Rim. Sure, Mimic and Blade II weren’t exactly Citizen Kane, but c’mon. Everybody is allowed to slip up once in a while. While The Devil’s Backbone is his only other true ghost story, there were plenty of horrifying scenes in Pan’s Labyrinth, as well as movies he helped produce like The Orphanage and Mama, so I was not worried that he could handle the task of scaring us again.

For a little background on the film itself, the story features a young American writer that is swept off her feet by a mysterious entrepreneur that lives in a haunted British estate. For a bit, I felt the movie was going to be like 2012’s The Woman in Black. English accents swept over the lines and it started to seem as it was going to be a costume-themed period piece, until it really began to pick up once the story moved to this British estate. Those that have picked up on it might have already realized that the estate is called ‘Crimson Peak.’ I won’t tell you why but really, the more I think about it, the stranger this story gets.

The cast in Crimson Peak is pretty good, but it’s not exactly something to write home about. I was a bit disappointed that Del Toro didn’t manage to slip stalwart Ron Perlman anywhere in the movie, but hey, Doug Jones made it in so I guess I can forgive the man. Leads Wasikowska and Hiddleston do enough the keep the story going, but I really think this one belongs to Jessica Chastain. Del Toro is famous for his absolutely stone cold, evil villains and Chastain does not break this chain. It’s pretty refreshing to see her play a character that is not emotionally or morally confounded in a muddled thriller and she definitely steals the show from the rest of the cast.

As I mentioned above, this movie isn’t going to turn your blood cold. A few scenes will have you gripping the arms of the couch (if you’re in the right mood), but honestly, Crimson Peak is just more of a really cool movie. The cinematography is absolutely stunning and though I felt Guillermo was a bit liberal with some of the CGI effects, it was not enough to take away from the tale itself. Del Toro weaves his story intricately with those scares and avoids the easy jump-frights that a good number of recent horror films are guilty of. He instead takes the opportunity to build the terror like a layered cake, until those final few moments when he knows he has you roped in and invested in the storyline.

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: The Others, The Devil’s Backbone, The Shining